Saturday, January 30, 2010

A surprising day

I constantly plead to have my work schedule be three days in a row rather than one on, one off, which is my usual lot. I frequently get so knackered in by working, that I spend the next day recovering till deep into the afternoon. If I work every other day, then I am always either working or recovering. Not ideal! I had thought this was a sign of my advancing age, but the youth of the day (at least those of them who are my co-workers) say it is the same for them. This was a comfort. As I said, I plead for three in a row, but it never seems to happen. This week, I had my week planned out, with nearly every hour dedicated to something. Some of the hours were dedicated to recovering, of course. On one of my recovery days, my aunt called to schedule a trip to the sewing store. I had been recovering all morning, and was trying to swing into aliveness. As we talked, I was looking at the upcoming work schedule so I could find a suitable day, and was horror struck. “O my God,” I said. “Is today the 27th?” She said it was. “I have to be at work in an hour!” I said a bad word, hung up the phone, and flung myself into action. I had copied my schedule onto the calendar, but had put five weeks down instead of the actual four for the last schedule, and so hadn’t realized the new schedule had started. For once, I had gotten my preferred schedule and hadn’t even noticed. This turned out to be a great boon. Usually, if I am working that evening, I stare at the clock all morning and brood about the coming evening’s work. Actually, I love my job (most of the time), but none the less, I brood. Today, unaware that I was going to be working, I neglected my brooding, and had a very pleasant recovery morning, alternately reading and house cleaning. So, now the house was clean, and I had a day off later in the week. I even managed to get to work on time. Hurrah!

The next day, I visited my friend Suzanne and recovered at her house. She lived in Japan for years, and her house filled with beautiful Asian things, as well as interesting and delightful treasures from the rest of the world. Here is a model Samurai warrior which she gave to her husband for Christmas. He (the Samurai, not her husband,) seems to have a part missing, as they haven’t been able to assemble him completely, but he is impressive none the less. Suzanne has bravely left her Christmas decorations up, as she isn’t tired of them yet. I am too wimpy to do this. I am sorrowful every time I take them down, but I succumb to peer pressure. Query to self: Why?
As Suzanne lives across the water, we had to cross one of Seattle’s floating bridges and I took the above picture of the afternoon sky over the lake. It looked much more impressive in real life.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A cleanly day

This week has been almost free of blog worthy events. In other words, pretty humdrum. The most significant happening occurred as I was Hoovering up dog and cat hair. Fortunately, I was working from ickiest to least icky (and most sweepable with a broom). I approaching the final room when my vacuum cleaner just sort of gave up the ghost. I tried a few recussitation tactics, but to no avail. My friend Samos offered to help me take the poor thing into the vacuum cleaner health clinic (a funky relic of the days when people actually got things fixed instead of just throwing them away,) and on the way we stopped for lunch – see photos. The vacuum cleaner man seemed quite confident that he could fix it, but I was dubious. “Come back tomorrow,” he said. Two days later, Rebecca and I went to see how the patient was getting on, and it was sitting exactly where I had left it. As yet untouched. “Oh my gosh!” I said. “I need it today. Have you figured it out yet what’s wrong with it?” He looked upset. “Is your cleaning woman coming today?” he asked. For some reason, the idea that I would have a cleaning woman struck Rebecca and me as incredibly funny, and we broke out laughing. “I’m the cleaning woman,” I said, “but my house is getting pretty dirty.” “Come back in an hour, and I’ll have it ready.” We did, and he did. A sort of modern miracle. He explained the reason it wasn’t ready on time in the first place was that he had suffered some sort of disasterlet which he described at length, but which I did not comprehend. Anyway, my vacuum is fixed and I am happy about that.

As I mentioned, Samos and I went to lunch on the way to the vacuum repair store. We visited the same Mexican restaurant in which we eaten on my birthday, and once again our food was both attractive and delicious.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another cinematic day

A week or two ago, I told you about how, for years and years, I had been thinking of watching The Battleship Potemkin, but, until then, had never quite been able to bring myself to actually endure it. Well, similarly, for years and years I have been thinking of watching Gone with the Wind! But I couldn’t quit muster up the requisite enthusiasm. “What!!!” you gasp! “You haven’t seen Gone with the Wind?” Well, yes, actually I have. It was when I was in high school and it was a miserable experience. It was my very first date – ever - and was with a very creepy boy. I was terrified, and to this day, can’t imagine why I agreed to go to a movie with him. I seem to recall that there was social pressure from my friends and that the whole ordeal was not entirely voluntary. I remember sitting in agony in the dark theater for about six hours at least, finally, in relief, watching Scarlett grasping her handful of earth, and saying that she would never be hungry again, the majestic inspirational music, the sunset, me thinking, “Thank God this movie is over!” and then the appalling word, “Intermission,” coming onto the screen. I nearly died. Now, I had loved the book. In fact it is the only book in the history of me, that – immediately after reading the last page, I turned back to page one and read the whole thing again. More recently, I decided to read it in German in order to practice up (for what, I don’t know.) However when the translator referred to the original’s “poor white trash” as “Das Proletariat,” I realized that a certain essential flavor was missing. I switched to English. I loved it just as much as when I was in high school. But the movie was another matter…. It would be so long, so boring, so reminiscent of teenage angst and ickiness. I had previously had myriad opportunities to watch it again, but always managed to avoid it. Until now. I was suddenly seized by an urge to see it, so Ana, Rachael, Dakki and I had a little Gone with the Wind and garlic ice cream party. That’s right! We had a nice vegetable barley soup for dinner, and Garlic Ice Cream, made by Ana, for dessert. Dakki has rather severely conventional tastes in food, so we didn’t mention in advance the ice cream's specifics. She said, “This ice cream is good, but I detect an unusual flavor. I can’t quite place it.” Who would think of garlic. It was very tasty. And Gone with the Wind was about twelve hours shorter this time. And about a thousand times more fun to watch. Sometimes the company is everything.
Here we are during a much more pleasant intermission, enjoying the ice cream.

Monday, January 18, 2010

An operatic day

Yesterday was opera day, and Rebecca and I went to see Il Trovatore. One of the fliers advertised Il Trovatore as the opera with the most Hit Tunes. This may well be true, as there were several numbers which I had played with my friend Deborah as piano duets when wee. And I think The Anvil Chorus was a regular in Loonytune cartoons. The story was a tragedy of course, but at the end, one leaves feeling good, and as thought one has just had a lot of fun. At the end of La Traviata, people all around me were having attacks of the sniffles, but this time, everyone left smiling, despite the fact that the stage is littered with the corpses of the main characters. Maybe we are unmoved because the story was so absurd, and who can feel sorry for someone who, trying to throw her enemy’s baby into the fire, accidentally throws in her own? She did lovingly raise the wrong baby as her own darling son, but none the less, there is that initial nastiness that rather robs one of total sympathy. The doomed lovers, of course, end up dead, but in such dysfunctional families, one feels that maybe they are better off.

The music itself, and the singing, as I said, were wonderful, but the production was disconcerting. The coats worn by the main men made them all look like dwarfs, and hence robbed them of a bit of credibility as valiant heroes, and the staging was weird and a bit too starkly modern for my taste. This approach worked well in Bluebeard's Castle, but not so well in something Italian – where a little rococo y robusto is needed. The scene in the Gypsy Camp (with the anvil players) looked like something from Bruegel, but that was done with the brilliant lighting, not scenery. Lighting was not enough to save the final scene. This looked like a modern jetliner sinking into the sea rather than a dungeon in something-th century Spain.
During the intermission, I spotted this fabulous hen purse. This was more like it. I asked its owner (whose name I stupidly forgot to ask, being so intrigued by the purse itself - as well as the rest of her marvelous outfit,) if I could photograph it, and she agreed. She designed and made the purse itself, and it was maybe the most beautiful bag I have ever seen. It was a montage of needlework techniques, and a collage of luxurius fabrics and other materials. Note the hen’s little fingernails, made from upholstery brads. Her hat was wonderful too, and maintained the chicken theme. Not sure if you can tell in the photo, but it is decorated by lovely little chicken feathers.

The top picture is the Seattle Opera House, aka McCaw Hall.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A culinary day

Dakki was coming to dinner and to watch The Battleship Potemkin. This was a movie that I had read about often, and had seen so many snatches of in film classes and elsewhere, that I felt as though I had seen it. But I never had, and it seemed to be a lack in a classic movie enthusiast. It is such a monument in the development of film making, and of editing in particular, that it seemed imperative that I see it. But I was leery, as the subject matter of the film is pretty unpleasant. Dakki, who knows everything about everything, knew all the particulars of the historical background, and was eager to see it and to offer moral support. This amazing silent film, which was made over eighty years ago, is still fresh, relevant, and harrowing in its tale of revolt against injustice.

Our dinner was a soup which started as a completely different concept - adapted from the 101 Cookbooks blog. I kept changing my mind about how I should make it, and the final result, though nothing like my original idea, was a great success. The recipe follows.
I also made a cobbler from the Betty Crocker cookbook which Rebecca gave me for Christmas. My original Betty Crocker cookbook was a gift to my mother from a friend who felt that my mom, who had zero cookbooks, needed one. She didn’t really, as she turned out lovely meals time after time, without owning a single cookbook. She did have little metal boxes of recipes, however. When I got married, she gave it to me, because I really did need a cookbook. It was my only one for quite a while, and the one I mainly used for quite a while longer. As a new bride, I was an enthusiastic cook, but a real know-nothing. The Betty Crocker cookbook was my bible. But its instructions were sometimes open to misinterpretation by the true neophyte. For years, Dennis liked to tell about the time I put whole turnips into a stew – no peeling, no chopping. Another time, I was making donuts, and didn’t want to waste all that nice oil in which I had fried them. Betty told my I could save the oil by putting some potatoes in it, and then saving it in a jar. So I did. A few weeks later, when I opened the jar, I was nearly knocked over by the astonishingly awful stench. Our apartment was so filled with the incredibly obnoxious odor that we had to evacuate, as did our neighbors in the next flat, George and Marsha. We convened in the front yard and discussed what to do. Everyone (almost) agreed that since I was the one who had caused the problem in the first place, I should be the one to go in and get out the offending substance. In my initial shock and horror, I had just left it on the counter. I, of course, felt that Betty Crocker should go in and get it, but she was not available. So the four of us fashioned a makeshift gas mask, and I rushed in, got the noxious jar of oil, clutching the gas mask to my face, and holding my breath all the while. When I brought it out, we noted that it was filled with gray foam rather than nice oil. We buried it. Later, I looked at the directions again, and they still seemed to tell me to do the same thing. Years later, I noticed that my aunt Pauline had a somewhat later edition of Betty Crocker, so I looked up donuts. The cryptic instructions were still there. By this time, I realized that you were supposed to deep fry the potatoes and they would suck up the flavors from any previously fried food. Then you were to strain the oil, and not wait too long to use it again. But this is not what it said. I stand firm on that. The whole episode was Betty’s fault.
Later, Rebecca made good use of my Betty Crocker cookbook too. She found the same edition in a used bookstore and bought it for herself, but continued to use mine so that hers would not be ruined. As you can see, mine eventually became quite frayed. I complained loudly and constantly about this, and felt that she should use her own, but she was unmoved by my whines. So I was pleased at Christmas, when I opened a present to find a new old edition of Betty Crocker. Now I can save my relic of years past, but still make the best cookies and cobblers around.

Bread Globule Soup

2 medium/large white onions, chopped
a head of garlic, peeled and chopped
olive oil
One cup of cooked garbanzo beans
1 pound of fingerling (or other) potatoes
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots chopped
1 cup parsley and cilanto, mixed, chopped
½ a sweet red pepper
6 cups vegetarian chicken style stock
salt, if needed
4 slices of firm sourdough bread

Sauté the onions in the olive oil for a few minutes until they are translucent, then add the garlic and sauté a bit longer. Add the celery and carrots, and give it a few more stirs. Add the potatoes, garbnzo beans, and the stock. Simmer until the carrots and potatoes are soft. Moosh the soup with an immersion blender until a few lumps remain, but it is mostly smooth. Stir in the sweet pepper and the parsley/cilantro mix, and simmer for a few more minutes. Add a hearty pinch of black pepper.
Cut the crusts from the bread and cut the bread into dice. Add the bread to the soup and simmer till the bread begins to dissolve into the soup. Crush some of the bread between two wooden spoons, and leave some intact. They make nice little dumplings, hence the name of this soup.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My friend Laura invited me to lunch, and I realized that I have two days in the month with no commitments. Awful! So we decided to go between commitments on Sunday – that would be after the morning Mass, and singing with the big choir, and before the evening Mass, singing with the Women’s Schola. I had gone to dinner at my friend Julie’s the evening before, and must have had too much tea, because afterward, I read my book till four-thirty in the morning, and woke up at seven-thirty feeling reasonably refreshed. I knew that this refreshed feeling was very artificial and temporary.
Laura came to Mass, and we went to my new favorite restaurant, Café Flora. The waiter asked if I wanted tea, and I said, “No thanks!” I felt tea’d out. I already had my morning quota before church. This contributed to the temporary refreshed feeling, I am sure. The waiter tarried at our table, and the thought of more tea grew more and more imperative and the idea of more tea grew more and more desirable. So I changed my mind and had a pot. And then another pot. Poor Laura! One thing too much caffeine does to me is make me a real blabber mouth. I talked and talked and could not stop talking. I talked so much that I forgot to take pictures of the event, even though I had brought my camera and selected our table with pictures in mind. Our brunch was wonderful, as is everything at Café Flora. I ordered grits and eggs. This sounds pretty prosaic, but it was not. There were wild mushrooms as well as something delicious and orange in the eggs, and the grits were garlicy and cheesy. Mmmmmmm! Laura had her first ever grit and thought it was great. What better than a great grit? Then we came to my house to visit a little longer, and I had more tea! And talked more. Way more. Finally, I had talked so much that my voice just went away. I croaked for a bit and then called in sick to the evening choir event. When Laura left, I thought I would read for a while, but went directly to sleep despite all that tea. I guess I had worked it off by talking. When I woke up, hours later, I felt that I needed something. But what? Oh, yes! More tea.

I did not forget to take pictures at Julie's house. Here is our absolutely delicious main dish, and I have absolutely no idea what was in it besides pure yumminess. And the totally tasteful tea cozy Becca and I made for Julie years ago.
P.S. Rachael tells me that Julie's main dish had plantains and yams, and was either Caribbean or African. Whatever it was, it was wonderful.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A happy day

Hurray! I just finished a Christmas Knitting project! As I said earlier, I planned to have the week before Christmas off, but I worked more than ever. This led to sorrow in the Christmas Knitting arena. Had circumstances not worked against me in every way, I might have been done. I was making my friends, the twins Maria and Corinna, fraternal quadruplet mittens. I got three and a half done on time, and then when the fourth was nearly done (not at all on time), I found an unignorable mistake and had to rip back to the thumb. I was hoping to actually have them done before Epiphany, and I did make that deadline. Now for the next Christmas project. Hopefully done by St. Valentine’s Day.
While I worked on the next unfinished project (still a stealth item) I watched National Velvet, which is one of my favorite movies, and seems like a companion piece to Lassie Come Home, another serious contender for the title of fave. Both have beautiful little Elizabeth Taylor, beautiful animals, and a beautiful story of courage and determination. Thinking about this reminded me of an evening in the mists of the movies past. When Rebecca was small, we went every Friday evening to a series of American or English classics at the University in our town.
This evening long ago, Rebecca and I took a friend to a double feature of The Yearling and Lassie Come Home. Now, I hate to cry in movies, as it is embarrassing and wimpy. Plus (maybe mostly,) I look really ugly when crying and I am vain. I detest doing it, and so sometimes I must steel myself and strive mightily against it. As anyone who has seen The Yearling, a major tearjerker, can imagine, this would one of those times. Part way through the movie, my friend Phyllis grabbed my hand and said, “Oh my God! They’re going to have to shoot the deer, aren’t they?” and burst into tears, sobbing loudly next to me till the end of the movie. All around me were loud sniffles and gasps. Little Rebecca, a very sensitive child, was audibly weeping next to me, and when the lights went on, she was wet, swollen, and quite pink. I had managed to hold myself together, and was probably the only dry eyed person in the theater. Then, after a brief intermission, we watched Lassie Come Home, a relatively mild entry in the lachrymation stakes. However, by this time, I was worn down. I had expended too much effort during The Yearling. When, at the end of the movie, Lassie drug herself down the village street to meet her boy at the schoolyard gate as she had been wont to do, I fell completely apart. Rebecca was mortified. “How can anyone not cry at The Yearling? And then make a specticle of themselves at Lassie Come Home, an absolutely not sad movie?” Years later, she continued to muse at my odd lack of normal human feeling, frequently citing this as an example.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Margaret’s busy day

Margaret and I got a late start after a rough evening at work. Margaret wasn’t at work, of course, but she waits up for me (or says she does), has tremendous sympathy when I stagger in, and never wakes me up in the morning after one of these awful nights. I cannot say the same of Maria, who ignores me till early morning and then expects her breakfast on time no mater what. I suppose that is just the way of cats. I had a lot to do, and Margaret was determined to help with all of it. Since I had a deadline with the library – it closed at five (I told you it was a late start), I decided to go there first. I needed to get a movie for Dakki and me to watch in the evening. As soon as we pulled into our parking spot at the library, Margaret knew just where we were. She started quivering and squeaking - “Dogs are allowed in there. I know they are because I’ve been in there before.” As I was poised to close the car door, with her still in the car, she became more imperative and struggled to jump out. So in she came. I picked up the books I had ordered, checked them out with the automatic checker-outer, and found that there was “a problem with one of my items.” This meant that I had to have an actual person help me. There was a huge checkout line with only one poor woman juggling requests for the bathroom to be opened, the demands of the telephone, not to speak of checking out people’s books. Everyone was telling Margaret how cute she was, and with all this, I forgot to ask for my movie – the main reason I had come. It was not in the usual pickup shelf, but behind the desk from whence one had to ask for it to be fetched. Next we went to the grocery store. Margaret knew she was not welcome here, so she didn’t bother with her “Please may I come” routine. I did my shopping, forgetting the main ingredient for Dakki’s and my dinner. When I tried to start up the car, I couldn’t get the key to turn in the ignition. Margaret had joggled some knob or switch to lock the ignition, thus foiling car thieves. Unfortunately, the one foiled was me. I know that there are secret things to do when this happens, and I did all of them that I could think of, but alas, to no avail. I even looked at the instruction booklet. In desperation and feeling quite pathetic, I called Ken, the knower of all things. While I was talking to him, Margaret, no doubt feeling guilty, threw up on the seat next to me. Blech! Ken told me how to start the car, and as I was talking to him, and Margaret was throwing up, the stereo came on with a tremendous blast of Bach, giving me palpitations. Thoroughly shaken, I drove home, realizing as I stepped into the kitchen with my spoils, that I had not gotten squash or the movie. Fortunately, I had enough squash for my recipe, and Dakki picked up the movie. Margaret is a real cinéphile, and had fun watching On the Waterfront with Dakki and me. I thought it was going to be awful, but it was very good. Karl Malden was obviously preparing for his big role in Pollyanna – much more my type of movie. We were going to watch The Battleship Potemkin also, but were too done in by the waterfront mobsters to deal with cruel czarist overseers.
Here is Dakki settling in to watch the movie. She looks like she thinks I should turn my heat up.